Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syria: security tightened after FSA Attack | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq al-Awsat – Military measures in most areas of the Damascus countryside has intensified greatly following the qualitative operation by the Free Syrian Army [FSA] in the Harasta area, Damascus Governorate. The FSA targeted a large air intelligence directorate compound and clashed with the guards killing and wounding several of them. Security roadblocks were increased and the blockade of many cities already suffering for months from the deployment of tanks in their streets was tightened.

According to an activist living in the city, army and security elements loyal to [Syrian President Bashar] Al-Assad encircled most security centers in the governorate for fear of coming under a similar attack by the FSA elements that are present in large numbers in the Damascus countryside cities. The opposition activist pointed out to Asharq Al-Awsat that fierce clashes broke out yesterday between defectors who refused to open fire on demonstrators and regular forces loyal to Al-Assad and said: “There are intermittent clashes in most Damascus countryside cities but these concentrated since yesterday around the city of Duma, a hotbed of protests against Al-Assad’s regime.” The activist, who has good coordination ties with many in the FSA elements who are in the city, added that “the dissident army will continue its operations against Al-Assad’s security centers as long as the repression continues and the arrests and torture are on the increase.”

The city surrounds the capital Damascus in a circle from all sides and its area is 18,018 sq km. It is not the first time that it becomes the scene of military clashes. It came under a violent security campaign last month by pro-Al-Assad security and army forces searching for dissident soldiers who refused to open fire at demonstrators and joined them. According to opposition activists, the areas of Saqba, Hammuriyah, Kafr Batna, Jisrayn, Mudirah, Misraba, east of Harasta, Duma, Arabayn, and Al-Kaswah went through difficult days as snipers were positioned at rooftops and heavy machineguns were installed in the army and security vehicles while the locals, employees, and students were banned from going to their work and schools as a full combing operation was underway in the lands and houses and random arrests were carried out that included dozens of youths from these areas.

Talking about this savage campaign to which the city was subjected, the opposition activist says “more than 40,000 soldiers from the ruling regime’s 4th Division and Republican Guards attacked the Damascus countryside and clashed with the FSA in several areas of the eastern Ghawtah amidst a campaign of random arrests that included entire families, raids on farms and houses, total closure of shops, the burning of possessions, the intimidation of women and children, and the total cutting off of communications in the blockaded areas.” He added: “During the military operation, major defections happened between the army and security in Arabayn in Damascus countryside and in other cities in the governorate and fierce clashes broke out between the two sides.”

An organizer of the Damascus countryside demonstrations says: “The city is suffering from an abatement of protests following the savage military strike by Al-Assad’s gangs in addition to the very large number of youths arrested and tortured inside Al-Assad’s jails. The FSA operation has revived the confidence and hopes of the demonstrators who are banned from staging any demonstration because of the military blockade imposed on most areas of the governorate.” He added: “The Syrian regime cannot control the Damascus countryside cities. The people here are bound by strong family ties and the entire population comes out to demonstrate in revenge if a demonstrator is martyred in one of the governorate’s cities.” He also pointed out that “the military campaigns waged by the war machine of Al-Assad’s regime reduced the level of popular protests but there will be from now on retaliation through an FSA operation for any arrest campaign or raids by Al-Assad’s militias. This is going to create a balance on the ground and allow demonstrations to be staged again. The people in the Damascus countryside are insisting on bringing down Al-Assad’s regime no matter how many human and material sacrifices this entails.”

Dissident officers from the Syrian army announced on 29 July the establishment of the FSA that includes soldiers who refused to open fire on demonstrators. They stressed in their statement that “they will deal with the security forces that are killing the citizens and blockading cities as legitimate targets and will target them in all the Syrian territories without exception.”

Many Syrian activists are demanding from the opposition Syrian National Council, which is led by Burhan Ghalyun, to open channels of coordination with the FSA and rely on it in the coming stage.